- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

NEW YORK — George Washington began life without Pops Mensah-Bonsu yesterday — which turned out to be a lot like life with him.

The sixth-ranked Colonials clinched the Atlantic 10 regular-season title with a 78-67 over Fordham before a frenzied full house of 3,200 — including a large GW contingent — at Rose Hill Gym. GW started redefining its operation with its second-leading scorer and top post player sitting on the bench in sweat pants with his crutches behind him.

“It was kind of funny because he is the ugliest cheerleader I have seen,” Danilo Pinnock said. “We are definitely missing Pops on the floor. We are just going to try to keep winning so he can come back and play another one.”

While the Colonials continued the nation’s longest winning streak at 16, they did it largely with their outside attack rather than starting in the pivot. The top three guards combined for 52 points, with reserve Maureece Rice scoring a game-high 19, hitting all seven of his shots in the second half.

Pinnock had 17 points, while Carl Elliott added 16.

Six-foot-11 Alex Kireev started in place of Mensah-Bonsu, who missed his first game after suffering a slight tear in the meniscus of his left knee that will keep him out several weeks. Kireev, a senior from the Ukraine, had all six of his points in the first half and appeared winded after halftime.

“They just continued to try to play the way they play,” Fordham coach Dereck Whittenberg said. “They tried to get the ball inside to the big kid a couple times. Their guards just took over the game. They penetrated, made plays and it was just a guards’ game.”

The Colonials (24-1) matched the school record for wins and improved to 14-0 in the A-10. The 14 league wins is a new high for GW, and the Colonials can break the overall win record at lowly St. Bonaventure on Wednesday. The Rams (12-15, 7-7) lost their fourth straight and are on their way to their 13th consecutive losing season.

GW was able to gets the points it usually gets from Mensah-Bonsu from its perimeter players. Kireev, Regis Koundjia and Robert Diggs shared the added minutes. Koundjia did not score in 16 minutes while saddled with foul trouble. Diggs, a freshman, was effective with four points, three rebounds and two assists in seven first-half minutes but did not enter the game after halftime.

The Colonials won on the strength of their first half. GW took a 37-24 lead to halftime largely because it forced 11 turnovers and converted them into easy points. GW built an 18-point advantage early in the second half by continuing to turn turnovers and missed shots into transition scores.

“We wanted to make sure we kept pressure on them all game,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said. “We wanted to make sure that the game got into our pace, and it did. We wanted to make sure we converted layups in transition. And we did.”

GW had to fend off a late rally before putting the game away, something that has become a trend. The Rams, who missed two of their first 17 3-pointers, finally started making shots midway through the second half. After GW built a 49-31 lead on a pair of free throws by Rice with 14 minutes left, Fordham went on a 9-0 run and eventually cut GW’s lead to seven.

“They made some key shots,” said GW coach Karl Hobbs, whose team shot a blistering 63.6 percent in the second and 53.6 overall. “They didn’t make a lot. But fortunately for us, we were continuing to score.”

Hobbs is hoping life without Mensah-Bonsu doesn’t have to continue much longer with the A-10 tournament beginning next week.

“We are hoping within two weeks,” Hobbs said of the senior center’s return. “That is very optimistic on my part.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide